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Things learned, observed in Kadena Panthers football camp

This article has been corrected

First in a series on Pacific high school summer football practices.

Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer is once more reminded of how summers are way too short:

-- First thing one notices at Kadena High School’s athletic fields: Grass that is unusually brown and tinder dry, a reminder of just how little rain has fallen this summer on Okinawa (unlike the Tokyo and Seoul metropolitan areas, which have been drenched). A high-pressure ridge has hovered over Okinawa for weeks now, one reason why (thus far) the island summer has been typhoon- and rain-free, save for the occasional shower.

-- For the moment, Kadena’s home games are scheduled for 6 p.m. starts at Ryukyu Middle School. However, ongoing work on the goalposts and scoreboard on the high school’s main field is evident due to scaffolding around each. So, it could be that those games (three in number) will kick off at 3 p.m. at Panthers Field.

-- Just 38 bodies were in attendance at the Panthers’ afternoon workout Wednesday (they go from 8-10:30 a.m. and 3:30-6 p.m. these next two weeks). About 10 more still need to get their physicals, so coach Sergio Mendoza is expecting 48 come Thursday’s workouts. More could be on the way with the PCS planes, and still others haven’t returned from summering in the States, such as senior Cody Prince, who’s doing several baseball camps in Texas and elsewhere.

-- No question, the Panthers’ backfield is chock full of veterans. Holdovers, including juniors Justin Sego and Barry Mitchell and seniors D.J. Padilla, Darren Gerstner, and Gage Bongo are joined by senior Tanner Stuart, a transfer from Oklahoma. May be the best backfield in Panther Nation since the days of Speed, Inc. with Lotty Smith, Stan Schrock, Thomas McDonald and Shariff Coleman lo’ those three seasons ago.

-- One change to Kadena’s voluntary summer workout program was increasing the number of conditioning drills to six days a week, instead of four as in years past. Mendoza hopes that will translate into some early growth for a line vast in numbers but with “not a lot of experience.” The line averages about 200 pounds, “not big, but well conditioned,” Mendoza said. “I’ve never had so many linemen.” That group will be led by seniors Damien Reese and James Alexander, the latter a four-year Panther veteran.

-- One new wrinkle you might see in Kadena's offensive repertoire is ... passing, largely due to the presence of wide receiver Preston Harris. The 6-foot-5 senior, who enjoyed a basketball renaissance last winter, "has already caught some great passes for us" in practice, Mendoza said. "We haven't had a wide receiver like him, ever."

-- Season begins Aug. 29 with a home contest against island-rival Kubasaki, Far East Division I runners-up the last two seasons.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

Correction

Darren Gerstner was misidentified in an earlier version of this article.

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Ornauer on AFN

 

Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer talks about the Pacific sports scene on AFN Radio. (Click on right arrow to play file.)

 

Nov. 7: Dave Ornauer talks about Far East championship week, stepping off with cross country.

Oct. 24: Dave Ornauer talks about cross country, football and other Pacific sporting events occurring this weekend.

Oct. 17: The Nile C. Kinnick football team can ensure its fans have good seats for the Far East Division I final with a win over Kadena on Saturday.